A recent experience prompted me to do a video and post on this topic and I imagine that a lot of you are dealing with this on a consistent basis. When attempting to change your diet and be healthier, why do we feel pressure to accept foods that don’t fit our diet when they’re offered to us? Instead of being supportive to family members, friends, and colleagues about the difficult choices they are making in their diet, some people lash out, poke fun, and are insensitive. We’ll be unpacking all of this and more to get down to the root causes and begin to really understand this unusual phenomenon.
I’m currently working with a gentleman who is dealing with getting his health back on track. He’s had multiple surgeries on his gut and he has Crohn’s Disease. His situation is very delicate and a challenge to reverser to say the least. Of course, my initial recourse was to eliminate all of the bad foods from his diet, which included things like dairy, tortillas, bread and fried foods. In order to truly make a change and become healthier he was going to need to commit and be disciplined.
This same gentleman invited me to a barbeque dinner recently in which his family also attended. It was fascinating to observe the influence that his family had on him and his eating habits. He’d attempted to diet in the past but over and over again, he would return to his unhealthy eating habits. This may sound odd, but isn’t uncommon: his family was basically teasing him about his food choices. Saying things like “You’re going to be going to the bathroom all day, might as well enjoy the food.” Why do people behave like this?
Rather than being supportive to a beloved family member who is trying their best to make a significant change in their life, some people make jokes about the situation and make the person feel singled out and uncomfortable.
To really understand this, we must dig deeper into the root cause.
Let us inquire to what food signifies and means to people. Often times it produces the effects of belonging, love, and caring. It’s quite common for grandparents to give pieces of candy and chocolate to their grandchildren because it makes them happy. If the kid has a smile on their face and happy then the grandparent is taking good care of their grandchild. Unfortunately, that isn’t quite the case.
This is a dysfunctional behavior that we are exposed through our upbringing and culture. As a culture, we identify with various things and one of the main ones is food. The types of food consumed is often based on location and people living in the same area often times eat similar foods. Think Italians eating Italian food. Greeks eat certain things, and Middle Easterners eat certain things as well. The list goes on and on.
People do this to such a degree that they often times take on the persona of the food they eat. If they eat matzah balls and chopped liver then that makes the Jewish. And in turn, if they’re Jewish, then they should be eating matzah balls and chopped liver.
Those are all examples of food dogmas. To simplify a bit, consider the following. Chocolate cake is socially acceptable; however, you don’t want eat chocolate cake, but that labels you as an outside because everyone else consumes chocolate cake. You’re the odd one.
When we make food for someone, we’re showing them that we love and care for them. If someone rejects that food that you made, then you can’t help but feel like they’re rejected your love and care.
If you think about it, a lot of times we are eating to belong. It’s often a social event or a get together revolve around some sort of special occasion. In Italy, there is eternal long dinners, we eat, we talk, we drink wine, there’s multiple courses, and lots of wonderful conversation.
Celebrations can be particularly tricky. Patients always ask me, “We’re going out of town for a celebration, what are we going to do?!”
Everyone comes together, brings their own dish and shares food with one another. Inevitably there is going to come that pressure to eat their food. Why? Because they want you to belong and partake in their celebration. They’re showing that they care through food, and if you don’t accept the food, then it’s like you’re rejecting their care for you.
If we really look at food shaming and the root cause, we find a positive. The expression of love, the desire for belonging and there is nothing wrong with any of that. However, it is important to be conscious of not making someone feel uncomfortable about their diet choices. Especially if you really do love and care for them.
I’d love to hear about your experience with food shaming and felling pressured to eat certain foods. This isn’t me giving advice; we’re having a conversation to learn from one another. These are real struggles and it’s important that you overcome them and stay committed to your healthy lifestyle choices.
Needing help with your nutritional needs?
I have developed The Healing Foods Method to help you feel great, balance your hormones, lose weight and keep it off.